Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Tuesday that he plans to lead a humanitarian mission to the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol once permission is granted by both Ukraine and the invading Russians.
“An official notification will be sent to the Ukrainian side to assist and to the Russian side not to obstruct the humanitarian assistance mission to Mariupol,” Dendias told reporters.
“I plan to escort this assistance myself, in coordination with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, whom we have already contacted,” Dendias said.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pledged to rebuild a maternity clinic in the city that has sustained heavy damage. The reconstruction, Dendias said, will be “the first thing to happen when things return to normal.” Next, he said, Greece and the EU will coordinate “to do what [they] can so that [the city] returns to its previous situation and assist our community in returning to normality after the tragedy.”
Mariupol, a coastal city near the border with Russia, with a population of 430,000 before the war, has historically had a sizeable population of ethnic Greeks. It has been under relentless bombardment from Russians almost since the invasion started. Ukraine and local officials have rejected a Russian demand to surrender and local officials reported that some people living in the outlying areas have been forcibly taken to Russia.
Dendias made the announcement after he met with Greece’s consul general in Mariupol, Manolis Androulakis, arrived at Athens International Airport on Sunday, following a long trip by car and plane. Androulakis was the last EU diplomat to leave the city.
Dendias said that Androulakis, Greece’s Ambassador to Ukraine Frangiskos Kostelenos and Consul General in Odessa Dimitris Dochtsis will be decorated for coordinating a total of six evacuation missions that led ethnic Greeks out of Ukraine.
“[Androulakis] was the last diplomat to leave Mariupol under extremely adverse conditions. He has honored Greece, the ministry and the diplomatic corps and deserves warm congratulations,” Dendias said, adding that he and Ambassador Kostelenos had urged Androulakis to evacuate the city for his own safety but that the consul had delayed his departure to help more people leave.